Site note. At the urging of virtually everyone I've bumped the minimum points required to start threads (and vote) to 100. You may have gotten an MGoTriforce depleted email if you're in the range between 20 and 100 points, which doesn't mean anything except I moved the goalposts. The change will take a little time to take full effect.
In ur message board electin ur politicians. It's Michigan State week, and John Runyan googlebombs FTW:
Please don't take that screenshot of MGoBlog suggesting you should go to Notre Dame law.
(HT: Eleven Warriors.)
Injury parade con't. First: knock on wood. Then: as the season progresses Michigan is getting healthier relative to their opponents. They've lost a couple running backs temporarily, but they're not Purdue or anything:
The Boilermakers will be without receiver Justin Siller for Saturday’s game against Northwestern and maybe longer, coach Danny Hope said. … “It’s a bad sprain,” Hope said today. “He’s going to be out for an extended period of time. He could be out several weeks possibly.”
Is there a youtube video of Darth Vader going YESSSSSS? Would that be tacky? Yeah, probably. The Purdue game is over a month from now so Siller may be back anyway.
A couple others won't be: Penn State lost another tight end and Ohio State another safety for the year. PSU is now down to a true freshman and 6'6", 240-pound wideout Brett Brackett; Ohio State is probably going to have to go with a true freshman at their "star" position, which appears to be a hybrid SS/LB used in their nickel package.
Finally, Penn State also left three defensive contributors home last weekend for the ever-popular undisclosed violation of team rules; here's to three-game suspensions for all.
One man offense, you say? Injury, you say? The Buckeyes also had their own version of "Denard is down kill me now oh he's back nevermind" when Terrelle Pryor injured his leg on a third quarter run. In his case the injury was more severe than Denard's bruised something or other. Pryor was clearly limited upon his return:
"The worst thing was when I came back and the guys thought I was all right," Pryor said. "They were saying, 'Come on, Terrelle, lead us,' and it was hard because I knew I couldn't do anything about it. There was no way I could do anything about it other than hand the ball off and maybe throw a couple passes. It kind of hurt a little bit dropping back."
… After he returned, he handed off 26 times, was 3 of 4 passing for 28 yards and gained 2 yards on a sneak.
The official diagnosis is a "strained quad," so could be one of those things that lingers until the offseason or he could be fine next week. Former Buckeye and guy who strained his quad Dustin Fox thinks it will be the former:
Just so u guys know. There's no such thing as a mild quad strain. As soon as u try to burst it's gonna lock up
If it's a Grade 1 strain he should be fine in a few weeks; if it's Grade 2 he could be limited for up to two months. Re-aggravation is possible since OSU has little choice but to ride Pryor as far as he can take them. Their backup quarterback situation is grim and a lot of their praise for Boom Herron's workmanlike performance reads like it's from Michigan fans hoping Vincent Smith is better than he seems right now. This slight window of hope will be followed by Pryor pulling a Denard against their next opponent, which is… Indiana. (Welcome to the Big Ten season, Hoosiers. Yeesh.)
Penn State jealousy update! Kevin Newsome: still backing up a true freshman. Anthony Fera, who Michigan recruited as a kicker:
By my count, Anthony Fera had four mediocre and one really, really bad punt.
They're still 39th in net punting and Michigan is 88th, but we're catching up after being in triple digits last week. While we're on Penn State, that game continues to look very plausible but I don't like this bit:
Credit where it's due: despite being harried and pounded on for pretty much the entire game (and dealing with a difficult night-game atmosphere in Kinnick; it got LOUD on multiple occasions), Robert Bolden seemed to keep his composure well and he did a nice job of leading the Penn State offense down the field on those two drives on either side of halftime. The coaches made things easier on him by using a lot of quick roll-outs and short passes, but he looked pretty calm in executing that gameplan. Things got more ragged in the fourth quarter and he threw a lot more balls that could have (and should have) been intercepted (including the one that was, by Shaun Prater late in the fourth quarter), but freshmen quarterbacks are going to take their lumps; Bolden seems like he could be a pretty good quarterback for PSU in the not-too-distant future.
Who hates quick rollouts and short passes? You do, because Michigan can't defend them. That's another game in which I have no idea what will happen. That's a big step forward from the beginning of the season. As a bonus, JoePa punted on fourth and six down 14 with 4:36 left: that's not a game in which fear of Denard will make coaches go Romer.
All hat. Remember when we were all excited about getting Les Miles and despondent when he said GTFO?
(HT: The War Eagle Reader.)
Dodged an enormous penis-shaped bullet there. What looked like enormous balls and a refreshing ability to do that Romer stuff we've been talking about all day turns out to be an inability to comprehend the conventional wisdom or the clock rules. You've seen this, right? It's seven minutes but if you didn't see how this went down you have to repair this immediately:
There are no words. If you insist that there are, Orson has you covered:
The clock runs. You do two things when you might want to stop the clock on the goal-line down 14-10 with a running clock. You may spike it---wait, that's not happening. There's a thing about spiking the ball at LSU, if you'll recall. They could call time out, but they have no timeouts because Les Miles is pretty sure the federal government demands those back at the end of the year if you don't spend them all. Though they've been on the two yard line ever since the pass interference penalty, the LSU offensive staff suddenly remembers OH MY GOD WE HAVE A GOAL LINE PACKAGE and sets off a fire drill the People's Republic of China would call "disgracefully hurried and chaotic."
Imagine if the smoldering tire fire that is Michigan's secondary was inside the head coaches' skull. LSU recruited Russell Shepard, a five-star dual threat QB Michigan thought was more talented than anyone they've recruited at the position and moved him to wide receiver so Jordan Jefferson could play. Guh.
BONUS: The Alphabetical's D, E, and F all concern the Michigan-Indiana tennis match, with Denard ascending past Woody Danztler in Orson's pantheon of spread quarterbacks.
Oh shiiiii… So yesterday I noted that Purdue starting quarterback Robert Marve had been knocked out for the year with a torn ACL, and suggested that Michigan was less likely to lose that game now. I was terribly, terribly wrong:
Robert Marve is no longer an option at quarterback. I would argue that his effectiveness was unfortunately limited to poor line play against Notre Dame, then he was banged up from the Western Illinois game on. That leaves Rob Henry as the presumptive starter. He is not the only option, however. Justin Siller has three starts at quarterback in his career. Could he be a better choice?
Purdue: Robert Henry, Purdue, Robert "Rob" Henry. Purdue: he is awesome and made of ninja stars and if you think about starting anyone else I will find the World's Most Medium-Sized Drum and blast it into the Pacific Ocean with a river of tears and this will not go well for anyone and I'll probably get very dehydrated. Just say no to Siller.
If I have to make a Hitler video that starts off with the guy pointing at the map and saying "Marve transferred from Miami and was entrenched as a starter and tore his ACL" and then Hitler saying "fine, fine, Robert "Rob" Henry is a redshirt freshman with only decent mobility, we'll be fine" and then the guy saying "Mein Brimley, Purdue has installed Justin Siller as their quarterback" and then the ensuing and ceremonial Losing Of The Shit, I totally will. And I won't like it.
He is the sun and the moon and the stars. Tom Brady/Lloyd Christmas fan. He hugged Denard. He showed up for Colin Cowherd. He's aquaman2342's avatar. People made gentle fun of his hair and compared him to the aforementioned dudes. I got like six billion emails from someone who must be his mother complaining about the gentle poking of fun. But we like him, don't we? He is everywhere, and he's always really happy about Michigan. His haircut is charmingly reminiscent of the guy who's (still, for now) the best Michigan quarterback of our lives.
He is so everywhere that I'm just innocently watching this RAWK-laden official site video of Michigan's top kick returns ever and BAM, I'm saying there's a chance at 2:02:
Lloyd Brady has been happy everywhere. It is at this point that he is photoshopped into historical situations that he's really happy about, like an inverted Stunned Aggie.
More Lewan. Woo!
"During film, he was wearing sweatpants, a fedora and a sweatervest with no shirt on underneath," Van Bergen said at the press conference, rolling his eyes.
He's like an enormous Tressel who uses his power for mustaches and good. Q: there are Michigan players with twitter accounts. Why on earth did this not get a twitpic?
Financial what? So… whenever people talk about going to a nine game schedule they cite the financial considerations that make it difficult. Example:
"I know our fans want to see more Big Ten games," Delany told the Tribune. "Our TV partners want to see more Big Ten games. But if we can't finance our programs, it's not going to happen."
I'm not so convinced. Situations, assuming that PSL fees do not apply (reasonable since they don't change based on number of home games):
Home and home with real program. One game, 100k people, 50 bucks each = 5 million dollars.
Two games against tomato cans. Two games, 200k people, 50 bucks each = 10 million dollars – 1.5 million for payouts = 8.5 million dollars.
That's 1.75 million per year, but it doesn't take into account the increased TV value of games against real teams, the increased attractiveness of season tickets when you have a real opponent in the nonconference (more relevant now that schools are charging close to what the market will bear and that seats are sometimes going unsold), and the various intangible wow factors that contribute to the bottom line. (In college, the bottom line is program prestige, wins, and losses, not money).
The problem has been that when Michigan schedules a killer nonconference game the money from TV goes to… the conference. Indiana makes just as much money from Michigan-ND as Michigan makes from Indiana-Towson. This severely reduces the incentive to schedule real opponents since you take all the risk of a loss and get zero gain relative to your conference-mates. But if you force the entire conference to add real games against each other and you own a network far more interested in televising Iowa-Wisconsin than four versions of Indiana-Towson, then the financial differences quickly tilt in favor of actual games. The bottom of the conference doesn't get to buy body-bag games, remember: IU just played at WKU.
I don't think financial considerations are going to be a major factor. It's close enough to a wash that a home/road imbalance and complaints from the IUs of the world about bowl eligibility will be more important.
Point Griese. Brian Griese was generic during the broadcast of the BGSU game but this is an interesting point that I've thought to myself but never though I'd hear an analyst drop:
“The ability to approach the line of scrimmage with the threat of running and (him) being able to throw those balls off-balance, that’s so hard on a defense,” Griese said. “Guys are wide open because of him.”
One of the many things that make Denard ridiculous is his ability to go from run to throw in no time flat. See the Roundtree touchdown against Notre Dame or the "Anything Tate Can Do I Can Do Better" improv in that same game. Accuracy from odd body angles makes his play action even more deadly than it would otherwise be.
Etc.: Some guy in the media says Michigan and BYU are talking about a home and home, which like okay. I'll take anything against a real program. Doubtful this ever comes to fruition, just because. "Staunch wave hater" and BG fan credits M with a "mad fun series," which is true. Michigan's wave is one of the hidden joys in sports. Michigan attendance has been more resilient than FSU's. Dreaded Judgment writes on the "why do I care about this?" question.
Brabbs reminder. Chicagoans: Phil Brabbs is having a fundraiser this weekend for the Indiana game, which Michigan will DOMINATE. Offer still stands on the Brabbs shirts, BTW: buy one, get five bucks off a second shirt in the (now severely reduced) MGoStore.
Insane rootability UPDATE! This is quality except for hated non-journalist Melanie Collins(!) introing it:
(Note: last time Melanie Collins was referenced on the blog the comments got very sad; just don't, hokay?)
Also: you've already seen Stonum kick the glasses up a notch this week, but what about Taylor Lewan's insane mustache tattoo?
The purpose of this:
"I mean it's the best icebreaker in the world. You go up to them," Lewan said, putting his finger in place to reveal the mustache, "'Miss, let's be serious, I just want to dance.'"
You will not be surprised to learn the idea originated in third grade. I mean:
"My friend thought it would be a cool idea to draw a mustache on (his finger)," Lewan said. " I was like 'this is the coolest thing I've ever seen in my life. I have to do this for real.'"
I love this team.
Kicking paint. Via a reader:
Injury watch. Another pair of big injuries hit the Big Ten this weekend, with Purdue QB Robert Marve and Penn State RT Lou Eliades tearing ACLs and getting knocked out for the year. Marve's replacement is a redshirt freshman who will further condemn Purdue to a terrible season; they're now down their top QB, RB, and WR and just lost to Toledo by 11. The Rockets were dead last in total offense going into the Purdue game; they put up 31 points and exceeded their season yardage average by 100. Purdue is bad. Someone should Yakety Sax the upcoming Purdue-Minnesota game.
Penn State winnability watch. Eliades's loss sends Penn State into a further bout of scrambling on the OL. They were already starting two(!) guys who played guard in 2009 at tackle. Now they're going with this guy:
Filling Eliades will be redshirt junior Chima Okoli, who is an offensive lineman for the first time in his career. Okoli was a full-time defensive lineman in high school and at Penn State until spring drills, when he reluctantly shifted to offense.
Penn State's starting tackles are now 6'3" and 6'4", and the position switch starter klaxons are blaring. Linebacker U on the situation:
The offensive line was already having issues before this tragedy. I lost count just how many times I pounded my fist on the bar table today when PSU only had to pick up a yard or two in third down situations and got manhandled by Temple's defensive line. … I am now taking bets on just how many of our linemen are going to join ex-punter Jeremy Boone in getting swallowed by Iowa's Adrian Clayborn next week.
Normally level-headed official-journalist-type-guy Bill Kline also sounds the alarm, albeit about a different position:
Penn State's safeties are just too slow. Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay both got burned on runs, and more than once. Andrew Dailey also was beaten. Terrelle Pryor is gonna eat them up, let alone Denard Robinson of Michigan. Can you imagine those safeties trying to even touch D-Rob? He could outrun those guys wearing a NASA spacesuit.
Yeesh. He also has some critical words for Bolden ("overthrows open receivers, holds onto the ball too long, rifles it in there harder than a sledgehammer") and actually says the PSU coaches should have inserted Kevin "Michigan Fans Are Just Bitter" Newsome at some point against the Owls.
All that sounds like overreaction to me. Even so, the Penn State game has moved into the coinflip-ish band with MSU and Iowa, even at night on the road. I remain terrified of Wisconsin even if Vegas hates them.
The Freude. TWIS is up and has the usual bout of Notre Dame self-loathing. Get your laughs in now since ND's next five games should all be easy wins—Boston College is the toughest opponent in that stretch and they also feature in TWIS because they have a 70-year-old OC named "Tranquill," which is just too easy.
Also featured is TRAIN MONKEY:
Train monkey could have called a better four down set
TRAIN MONKEY FOR WVU OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR.
BONUS! This just came down the NDN crazy pipe:
My mom says it's ok we lost because Stanford is a good team
by KLav18 (2010-09-27 16:03:17)
I want to punch her in the face and tell her that is the whole problem. We can't beat anyone good because we suck.
Is there anything more entertaining than ND Nation after a loss? Yes: Denard Robinson. But that's it.
I admire your enthusiasm. One Indiana fan's opinion of this weekend's game:
Michigan has no chance next week....
their defense doesnt exist. They barely beat an ND that IU could easily handle (ND couldnt dominate PU, which got killed by Toledo. You think Toledo would beat IU??). They barely beat UMass (FCS team?) at home.
They are not going to get 400 yards on IU.... let alone 700 yards.
Michigan are getting full of themselves, again. The BTN is helping.
Chappel will destroy them. Robinson will get some of his yards, but no one else will. And if they are sandbagging his injury, Tate Forcier's parents will have to take down his website after the game.
This is just one guy, obviously. Most other IU fans are hopeful but reasonable, or seem reasonable next to this guy, who also suggests that if the "referines" give Michigan the game again, IU should join the Big 12.
Etc.: Oregon blog Off The Pond finds AP voter John Wilner's secret ballot notes. Wilner is one of two voters to exclude Michigan, and the rest of his ballot does not make the guy out to be a genius. (The other guy not to vote for Michigan is creepy/sad cheerleader groupie Scott Wolf.) Nobody goes to Florida State games. Just 61k showed up for the Wake Forest game; they haven't topped 70k for the last five games. TV Guide droids are changing the storyline.
OR ACID OR COLD OR SOMETHING. So… uh… there was some mascot segment on Real Sports that featured this decidedly un-real Michigan mascot:
If you ever wondered why Michigan didn't have an anthropomorphic wolverine, wonder no longer. What is that thing? Who made it? And why hasn't it been drowned in acid? Answers: my idea of hell, Special K, and because society is falling apart.
Man up. This Notre Dame guy lost a bet, but owns it:
Your pathos is delicious, but respect for putting it on the internets.
Double pass in the sky what does it mean it means touchdown. A Wolverine Historian tribute to the transcontinental:
I don't think we'll see that at Michigan for a while since the play keys on people forgetting about the quarterback and what are the chances of that with Denard running around? Not so good.
Stapled together. A couple of commenters objected to the idea that "upcoming" Big Ten opponents feature freshman quarterbacks and stapled-together run games, and insofar as we know anything about Indiana after a I-AA game, bye, and the closest thing they could find to a I-AA game (WKU just transitioned to I-A last year) they are right that the first two offenses Michigan faces in the Big Ten look at least competent.
These are the stapled together folks:
Only 16 of those  rushing yards [against Ball State] came from a guy (Dan Dierking) who actually plays running back, although he's listed as a fullback on the team roster. The others came from two quarterbacks (Rob Henry and Robert Marve), a fullback (Jared Crank) and three receivers -- Antavian Edison, O.J. Ross and Justin Siller -- one of whom, Siller, used to play both quarterback and running back.
That's Purdue. Meanwhile, Iowa's down to Adam Robinson and whoever and Penn State's Evan Royster has 31 carries for 110 yards through three games, averaging just 3.5 YPC on 22 carries against Akron and Youngstown State. As a team, PSU is averaging just over 4 YPC despite playing two tomato cans to start. I'm sure they'll all exceed season averages against Michigan but that might not mean a ton.
Go wherever you want, cheer for whoever you want. In Rod We Trust makes the terrible confession that the author did not attend Michigan. Who cares? Michigan fans who didn't attend the university are paranoid about the depth of their fandom because they're in a situation faced by many schools in a Big Brother/Little Brother situation where there's a less prestigious school in state fewer care about because they're historically crap. The historically crap school gets all mad that people like to watch the football team that usually does something other than go .500 and asks everyone if they went to the school they root for. This has happened to me multiple times as I leave Michigan State, and the crestfallen look on the brah's face when I say "yes, I went to Michigan" never fails.
Fans who buy stuff and indoctrinate their kids who might turn out to be 6'8" maulers and fill up the largest stadium in the country are all assets to the program no matter where they went to school or if they, say, have multiple crayon-like tattoos akin to the ones all around me at the UMass game. The more the merrier.
The reason there are people unaffiliated with Michigan who root for it is because the football program has offered something other than pain and fleabag bowl games against Fresno State over the years.
Kicking in a sentence. Rodriguez:
"The guy from the parking lot has not been cleared yet so I don't know if he hasn't gotten his physical yet or if there's an issue with his eligibility."
HA HA HA I FEEL GREAT. Go for it, Rodriguez, go for it so hard. Third and six is a running down now.
Interesting bits. MGoUser sits next to Chargers scout and gets a largely positive take on the team, plus something we're seeing play out right now:
Robinson's defenses have always been a "bend don't break" style that simply count on the opposing offense to make enough mistakes for your offense to outscore them. He felt Robinson was very gifted at player development, even though his schemes are often too passive.
FWIW, before the season I got second-hand report from another NFL scout that was basically the polar opposite of the take linked above, stating that Michigan had nothing but Martin on defense and the immediate future is grim, but this was before the Denardening.
Etc.: Following up on the curl-flat discussion last week is a Football Defense post on defending it when you're in quarters. The answer is "you can't defend the flat." Pedobear invades Neyland. Soccer wins 3-2 in OT over Kentucky; should have gone last night, eh? Double rainbow Denard. MVictors interviews author of book on Michigan Stadium about… Michigan Stadium.
First, and sadly: due to a honeymoon in Paris (not mine), longtime friendly adversary Brian of the House Rock Built was unavailable for a Vicious Electronic Questioning this year. I haven't run across any Notre Dame bloggers who aren't enthusiastically answering their roundtable question about why they hate Michigan with links to the Blue-Gray Sky thing they posted on this blog that mostly talks about people who have been dead for many years, so a replacement just wouldn't be the same. Who goes on a honeymoon during football season anyway?
But I can boil it down to its essence:
I know I feel better. On with shew.
|WHAT||Michigan @ Notre Dame|
|WHERE||Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN|
|WHEN||3:30 Eastern, September 11th 2010|
|THE LINE||Notre Dame -4|
|WEATHER||mid-60s, 40% chance of rain, 10 mph wind|
Run Offense vs. Notre Dame
Michigan obliterated UConn on the ground, racking up 287 yards on 61 carries. That's 4.7 YPC despite running about 75% of the time and spending the last ten minutes of the game pounding it into a stacked line. Denard Robinson did the bulk of the damage running simple QB lead draws that UConn could not stop even after UConn adjusted to them and Michigan showed no inclination to stop calling rock. The tackles performed above expectations, Steve Schilling seems to have made a senior leap, and David Molk is back. The one sore spot on the line was sophomore guard Patrick Omameh. You probably know this bit already.
How meaningful that is is still a question. UConn returned five of its front seven (both defensive tackles and all three linebackers) but lost a projected starter at DE before the season and may have played Greg Lloyd at MLB despite an injury. Last year they were the #45 rush defense nationally largely thanks to playing a lot of terrible rush defenses. When it came time to play anyone with a mobile quarterback or a tailback, they got shredded. Jury may be leaning one way, but it's still out.
Third stringer Dan Dierking career YPC: 4.0. Versus ND: 6.2, although on just nine carries.
As far as Notre Dame goes, their opening matchup against Purdue is not indicative of much either. The Boilers lost Ralph Bolden before the season and went with a platoon of a dinged, unprepared Al-Terek McBurse and Dan Dierking, which latter the announcers tried to praise by saying he could play fullback too. You may remember Dierking playing against Michigan in the long-long ago when Purdue had a similar rash of injuries, but after a 42-carry freshman season his stats for the last two years combined are 12 carries for 38 yards.
A mélange of those guys, worse-at-running-than-he-thinks quarterback Robert Marve, and assorted who-dats went for 136 yards on 28 carries, Marve's four sacks excluded. That's… kind of ominous for the Irish, as it's a 4.9 YPC against Dierking and the Who-Dats (AKA: Who-dat and the Who-Dats.) Compounding the ominous Tom Hammond head hovering over the ND run defense, Purdue returned just two starters on the offensive line. Two of the new guys are position switch starters somewhere between ominous and klaxon-deploying: the right tackle was a backup defensive tackle last year; the center is a 6'6" converted tackle who had never played the position in his life before being told to practice snapping in June. Despite this, Purdue coaches were positive about him after the game:
"He graded out winning," Nord said of Mondek. "Peters Drey had a very good player head up on him the whole day and he held his own. He did an excellent job for the first time snapping in the game."
Also, in that article the Purdue coaches pin the blame for three of Marve's four sacks on Marve for not throwing the ball on time. The Boilers are going to rush for like six yards a game this year.
Last year's game is worth noting since the lines will be similar: Michigan went for 190 yards on 38 caries with a long of 32. Many arrows point towards schwing. The only one pointing away is the presumably increased competence of the ND coaching staff.
Key Matchup: David Molk vs Ian Williams. The first sign Molk was going to be good was two years ago in the driving rain at Notre Dame Stadium when he blasted Williams back time and again, opening holes up for what would be the best game of Sam McGuffie's Michigan career. A year later he was a major factor in Michigan's 5 YPC. If he can do the same thing this year, Michigan's guards will have free releases on the sophomore middle linebackers and Notre Dame will struggle to get Michigan off the field.
Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame
Michigan fans' reaction to Denard Robinson's throwing in the UConn game was basically this:
And not without reason when you send Tacopants into a mopey sideline pout due to lack of playing time. Stipulated that UConn's secondary must be terrible and that Gary Gray and Darrin Walls will be a major step up. If the ground game is working like it seems it might, however, the excitable Te'o ("yeah, he missed that tackle, but he missed it like a FIVE STAR") and the rest of the Notre Dame linebacking corps will be tested more than the cornerbacks. The only times Michigan went after corners against UConn were on hitches; everything else was safeties and linebackers. That seems like a viable strategy against ND.
The questions for Robinson are the ones detailed in UFR:
It's more about what happens when his receivers are covered. Can he come off a primary read? Can he consistently recognize when guys are covered? Can he process information fast enough to get the passes out on time?
Notre Dame will spend a lot of time working on a counter to the snag that Robinson threw to good effect against UConn, leaving him riskier throws further downfield that require more recognition than "where is the linebacker"; UConn's inability to play anything but zone against Robinson hurt them badly.
As far as ND goes, Marve struggled against the veteran secondary, throwing a pick when Walls sank into the deep route in cover two and Marve chucked it anyway and completing a large number of uselessly short passes. Though he went 31 of 42, all those completions only gained 220 yards, a Threet/Sheridan-esque 5.2 YPC. The longest completion of the day went for 16 yards. Notre Dame also racked up four sacks, though as mentioned the coaching staff put the blame for three of them on Marve; the fourth was blamed on a tailback's blitz pickup. Notre Dame looks to have the same low-mistake secondary they've had for a long time.
Key Matchup: Play action OMG versus ND linebackers. More play action combined with a successful run game and some inexperience at MLB could yield a big day for slots and tight ends.
Run Defense vs. Notre Dame
First, everything ND did on offense against Purdue:
Did you get all that? AAL breaks it down in various ways. The bit relevant to this section:
On 1st and 10, the Irish were 68% run, 32% pass. On all other downs they were 21% run, 79% pass. … Most popular runs: Power (8), Inside Zone (5), Draw (3), Read Zone (3) … Purdue plays a 4-3 and was happy to sit in Cover 2 for almost 50% of all plays. Often a nickel back was in the game replacing the Sam, but serving the same function. The safeties sat at 10-12 pre-snap and weren’t going to let anything over their heads.
Despite the predictability of ND's run distribution, tailbacks Cierre Wood and Armando Allen combined to have an almost Denard-like day with 25 carries for 161 yards and a touchdown. As you can see above, they looked good doing it. (The move to the spread has apparently spelled doom for Robert Hughes and Jonas Gray.) Notre Dame also ran Crist seven times for 20 yards, though he looked bad enough at it that I assume they'll either drop it entirely or keep it as a very occasional effort to keep defenses honest.
Is Purdue's run defense any good? Eh… probably not. They returned 4-5 starters in their front seven but those guys were good for just 94th nationally last year.
Of course, the next question is "is Michigan's run defense any good?" They were 91st (WOO SUCKIT PURDUE) last year and though they return 5-ish of their front seven from last year (counting the spur as a linebacker) the losses were Brandon Graham and Stevie Brown, AKA definitely the best run-defense players on the team last year.
The UConn game does give reason for hope. The Huskies returned four starters and Jordan Todman from a rushing game that was 39th nationally a year ago, but only racked up 138 yards on 30 carries, with 26 of those coming on two carries when Michigan was in a full-on prevent. When Michigan was in their base defense, UConn averaged 3.6 YPC. If Michigan can replicate that they'll be in good shape.
Key Matchup: Mike Martin vs Braxton Cave. Cave was a surprise starter when Dan Wenger suffered a concussion in fall camp, and while he was a decently well-regarded recruit Martin should be coming into his own this year to the point where he tears through Cave like his presence is theoretical. If this happens, Notre Dame's ground game will suffer.
Pass Defense vs. Notre Dame
HAHAHAHA. End preview.
All right, fine: this looked like a pending disaster before the season and looks like a pending disaster after week one, but maybe slightly less of one? Michigan's corners were effective against UConn's short passing game and blameless on their long completions. Cam Gordon made one understandable mistake amongst a reel of good angles, big hits, and mostly responsible play. This is still going to be a horror show; maybe it will be slightly less of one than everyone expects.
On the Notre Dame side of things, Crist proved he wasn't Jimmah, at least not yet, several times. He overthrew several receivers and did not react well when Purdue let the dogs out:
Purdue only blitzed 3 times before the score was 20-3. The Irish handled it at that time (+5, +12, +7). After, Purdue blitzed 8 times netting 2 sacks, 3 incompletions, 1 scramble (for 0 yards), and a safety on a run play. Against the late blitzes, the Irish succeeded once on an Inside Zone run (+18).
Even with those negatives the final numbers were 19 of 26 for 206 yards and a touchdown: efficient but not explosive. His YPA was actually worse than Robinson's, his YPC slightly higher, and this was against a secondary replacing all four starters. IE: probably not a ton better than UConn's. The deep ball was not part of the arsenal. Was Purdue able to bracket Floyd because the guy opposite him this year is Duvall Kamara—all but a tight end—instead of Golden Tate? Is Crist significantly worse at it than Clausen? Was it just one of things? Data not found. Blue Seoul suggests it might be the Crist bit:
Still big, still fast, still got great jumping ability. Unfortunately for him, Crist doesn't seem able to hit him on a fly. Twice they tried a double move, with Crist missing badly. Something's not right with their timing. But he's a huge threat on deep hooks and other sit down routes against a zone.
Even with all that mitigation, your hopes are probably an inch off the floor and that's where they should be. Keeping Floyd off the board on the long ones is all but impossible unless Michigan's pass rush is murderous, and while they were good against UConn they were not murderous.
Key Matchup: Mouton and Roh and to some extent Van Bergen vs ND tackles. ND went empty a ton against Purdue, leaving one-on-one matchups for their offensive linemen. The ND tackles are new and didn't do so hot against Ryan Kerrigan, though that might be understandable. Meanwhile, Roh displayed far greater pass-rush ability against UConn than he did as a freshman in limited time since Michigan rushed three frustratingly often. Van Bergen did not have an impactful game in his first game as a DT, but when Michigan goes to its rush package and Mouton puts his hand down he's a difficult matchup. If Michigan can get to Crist with regularity they win. If not, they probably lose.
Michigan was shaky a week ago. Jeremy Gallon let a punt bounce down to the four, made a ridiculous decision to run up under a 30-yarder and got the muff we all knew was coming. Michigan recovered. Brendan Gibbons missed a 42-yarder, made a 24-yarder, and missed one of four extra points. Kickoff returns were eh, and Michigan elected to frustratingly squib several kicks.
In the aftermath, Rodriguez attributed almost all of that to the wind, gave Gallon a vote of confidence on punt returns, and said Gibbons was good to go this week.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, got a big punt return from Armando Allen—on Purdue's only punt—and saw their field goal kicker go 3/3. On the other hand, their net punting average is just 31.7 yards.
Key Matchup: HOLD ONTO THE DAMN BALL.
- Craig Roh and Mike Martin aren't getting to the quarterback on five- and seven-step drops.
- Patrick Omameh looks as shaky as he did against UConn.
- Crist launches anything downfield.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- David Molk puts Ian Williams on skates again.
- The run game's making the linebackers jumpy and vulnerable to the Oh Wide Open we saw against UConn.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 7 (Baseline 5; +1 for Aigh Secondary!, +1 for Aigh Mike Floyd!, +1 for Aigh The Combination Of The Two!, –1 for Wow Purdue Is Hot Ass, –1 for Dan Dierking YPC: 6.2, –1 for He's White!, +1 for First Road Start For QB, +1 for And The Horrible Things Always Happen At Notre Dame, –1 for …But Usually To The Favorite.)
Desperate need to win level: 8 (Baseline 5; –1 for Playing With House Money to Some Extent, +1 for But Yeah This Would Be Well On Path Towards Avoiding Doom, +1 for All Internet Notre Dame Fans Are Basically Reprehensible, +1 for Boy The Next Two Weeks Would Be Relaxing With This Under The Belts, –1 for Fairly Understandable Loss If It Happens, +1 for But If It's Doesn't We Might Have Something Here, +1 for Maybe They'll Hire Weis In Three Years If Kelly Does Poorly)
Loss will cause me to... spend three weeks attempting to ignore grumblers until we get more information.
Win will cause me to... definitely not say anything about the Outback Bowl.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Oh, why the hell does this section exist? I don't know. I don't know what will happen, either.
I think Notre Dame can force Michigan into two or three deep coverage and exploit that, I think Obi Ezeh is going to be a key player with Notre Dame running it down his throat a lot from spread formations, I think Michigan's best hope to kill drives is to blitz so those tackles don't have help against Mouton and Roh but that inescapably exposes Kovacs to God knows what. I can see Crist whiffing on some key passes and either fumbling or tossing an interception when he gets pressure. I can also see the Mike Floyd show.
On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame's performance against a hacked-together bunch of third-string scrubs, converted offensive linemen clearly unsuited for their positions, and a cluelessly arrogant quarterback bodes well for Michigan's ability to run all over them. Once that's established, Robinson's reads get considerably easier and the offense goes right down the field.
I think I'm flipping my position on this after looking more closely at the ND-Purdue game. Total yardage in that game was 350-320, and on review Purdue looks like a team that should be terrible this year, especially if Marve is going to be that guy all year. Is UConn better than Purdue? Almost certainly. Did Michigan disfigure them in terrible ways? Yes. Am I a tiny bit more confident in the reliability of the Michigan offense? Yes. Do I think there's more chance of a turnover when Michigan blitzes Crist than a Notre Dame defense that almost has to sit back? Yes.
So… yeah. I am about to do this. I have no confidence in this prediction.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Denard only, and he again cracks 100 yards and 5 YPC. Completion percentage comes down to 65%.
- The tailbacks look much better than they did last week, with someone, probably Shaw, breaking a long one due to excessive Denard attention.
- Michigan wins the turnover battle.
- Michigan, 31-27.